Green papaya salad is claimed as an innovation of the Lao people, which was introduced to central Thailand and the rest of the world by the Lao/Isan migrants moving to Bangkok to seek work. Variations of the dish are found throughout Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and as well as in the West, where it is more commonly known by its Thai name.
A non-spicy green papaya salad version also exists in Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand, which is much sweeter; it often contains crushed peanuts, and is less likely to have padaek or brined crab. These last are eaten raw, and both the Lao government and Thai government periodically issues health warnings about the risk of hepatitis. Dried brine shrimp are used in this Central Thai version. There are also versions that make use of unripe mangoes, apples, cucumbers, carrots, and other firm vegetables or unripe fruit. Besides using varieties of fruits or vegetables as the main ingredient a popular option is to use vermicelli rice noodle wherein the dish is known as tam sua.